The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Self Study Course for CAT


The Common Admission Test (CAT) is one of the most important exams for admission into top management institutes in India such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). With over 2 lakh candidates appearing for CAT every year, having a strategic preparation plan is crucial for success.

Self-study for CAT involves preparing for the exam on your own at your own pace, without enrolling in coaching institutes. Self-study has several benefits – it allows you to customize your preparation as per your strengths and weaknesses, provides flexibility in timings, and is often more affordable than coaching. However, self-study also requires discipline, time management, and access to robust study resources.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover all key aspects related to preparing for CAT through self-study. This includes understanding the exam pattern, required skills, choosing the right study materials, creating an effective study plan, attempting mock tests, going through the application process and more. By the end of this guide, you will have clarity on how to strategize and implement your CAT preparation journey.

Academic Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the CAT exam, candidates must have completed a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university with a minimum of 50% marks (45% for reserved category candidates). There are no restrictions on the stream or discipline of the undergraduate degree. Candidates who are in the final year of their bachelor’s degree are also eligible to apply, but they must submit their marksheets and provisional degree certificate before the admission process begins.

According to the CAT eligibility criteria outlined on the official website (, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree with at least 50% marks or equivalent CGPA. The relaxation of 5% is applicable for candidates belonging to Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Persons with Disability (PwD) categories.

Some key highlights of the academic eligibility criteria for CAT are:

  • Candidates appearing for the final year bachelor’s degree/equivalent qualification examination can also apply.
  • Candidates who have completed professional courses like CA, CS, ICWA are also eligible to apply.
  • There is no limit on the number of attempts a candidate can take for CAT exam.

Meeting the minimum academic eligibility criteria is the first step to appear for one of India’s top MBA entrance exams. With sound preparation and focus, CAT opens doors to 20 premier IIMs and 100+ other B-schools in India.

Exam Pattern

The CAT exam pattern consists of 3 sections – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Aptitude. The exam is conducted in a computer-based mode with a total duration of 120 minutes.

There are 100 questions in the CAT exam with 40 questions in Quantitative Aptitude, 30 questions in Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, and 30 questions in Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning. Each section is allotted 40 minutes. There are 3 marks awarded for each correct answer and 1 mark is deducted for each wrong answer.

The Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension section tests candidates on grammar, vocabulary, comprehension passages, para jumbles, and critical reasoning skills. The Quantitative Aptitude section covers arithmetic, algebra, geometry, mensuration, trigonometry, and statistics. The Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning section evaluates analytical and logical reasoning abilities.

The CAT exam is conducted in two sessions and candidates have the option to take the exam in any of the two sessions. The difficulty level of both sessions is comparable.


Key Skills Needed

The CAT exam tests candidates on three key skill areas – quantitative aptitude, verbal ability, and logical reasoning. Mastering these skills is crucial for performing well on the exam.

Quantitative aptitude involves solving mathematical problems, interpreting charts/graphs, and analyzing quantitative information. Strong skills in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data interpretation are needed. Candidates should be comfortable with basic concepts as well as advanced quantitative topics [1].

Verbal ability covers English language skills including vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning. Candidates need strong vocabulary and grammar knowledge to answer questions on synonyms, antonyms, analogies, sentence structures etc. Reading comprehension involves understanding complex passages and answering questions based on them [2].

Logical reasoning evaluates a candidate’s ability to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and draw conclusions. Questions test skills such as deriving conclusions from statements, evaluating strengths/weaknesses of arguments, identifying assumptions made in arguments, and applying principles of logic. Strong analytical and problem-solving skills are essential [3].

Along with mastering these skill areas, developing speed and accuracy in answering questions is very important. Candidates need to balance speed and accuracy under time constraints during the exam.

Top Self-Study Courses

When preparing for the CAT exam, choosing the right self-study course is crucial to maximize your chances of success. Some of the top CAT exam preparation courses in India include:


The TIME CAT course is known for its structured study plan and rigorous test series. Key features include:

  • Video lectures and study material covering all test sections
  • All India CAT mock tests for practice
  • Mentoring and doubt clearing sessions with experts

According to students, TIME’s course content and test series mimic the actual CAT exam closely. (source)

IMS CAT Course

IMS is one of the oldest and most reputed CAT coaching institutes in India. Their self-study course includes:

  • CAT study material and video lectures
  • Sectional and full-length mock CATs
  • Analysis of mocks and guidance from mentors

IMS focuses on building fundamental concepts for CAT and providing personalized mentoring support. Their course is best suited for serious, self-driven CAT aspirants. (source)

Career Launcher CAT Course

Career Launcher has emerged as one of the top choices for CAT exam preparation in recent years. Key highlights:

  • Structured video content for all three sections
  • Chapter tests and 15 full-length mock tests
  • Dedicated mentors and CAT workshops

Students praise Career Launcher’s course content and practice tests which provide a feel of the actual CAT exam. Their course is especially useful for working professionals balancing CAT prep with jobs. (source)

Online vs Offline

When preparing for CAT, students have the option to pursue either online or offline coaching. Both formats have their own unique pros and cons that applicants should consider when deciding which is best for them.

Online coaching provides more flexibility and accessibility. Students can access video lessons, practice tests, and other materials at any time from anywhere with an internet connection. This allows working professionals or those in remote areas to still receive quality instruction. Online courses also tend to be more affordable compared to offline options. According to one source, “The offline tutoring model is the conventional classroom-based one, whereas the online system is cutting-edge, practical, simple to use, and computer-based” [1].

However, some students may prefer the structure and social aspects of offline coaching. Being in a classroom provides live interaction with instructors and peers. This can help keep students more accountable and engaged. Offline courses also often provide access to hard copy materials and other resources not available online. As one Reddit user commented, “It’s better to enroll in online, but you will miss out on the peer group which can be created in offline classrooms.” [2].

In the end, students should weigh the benefits of flexibility and affordability with online against the accountability and resources of offline. Testing both options for a short time may help applicants determine which format best suits their needs and learning style.

Creating a Study Plan for CAT

Having a structured study plan is crucial for success in the CAT exam. Candidates should devote a minimum of 4-6 months for CAT preparation. According to experts, an ideal study plan has the following key aspects:

Importance of Daily Timetable: Students should make a realistic daily timetable and stick to it religiously. A sample daily schedule involves waking up early, studying for 2-3 hours before office/college, taking classes and solving previous year papers in the evening, and revision on weekends. Proper time management is vital.

Duration of Preparation: Experts recommend preparing for CAT over 4-6 months. For working professionals with less time, a plan spanning 3-4 months can also work with rigorous effort. Longer preparation timelines of 9-12 months are ideal for strong conceptual clarity.

Sample Study Schedule: A typical 3-4 month CAT prep timeline has one month for fundamental concepts, 1.5 months for attempting mock tests and revisions, 15 days before exam for test series and speed-building. Candidates should also analyze sample daily schedules shared by experts as reference.

Focus Areas: The study plan must cover all three sections – Verbal Ability, Logical Reasoning, Quantitative Aptitude – with regular revision of formulas, vocabulary and concepts. Solving previous CAT papers is highly recommended.

Practice Tests

Practice tests, also known as mock tests, are an essential part of CAT exam preparation. Taking regular mock tests helps test takers get familiar with the actual exam format, identify weaknesses, and work on improving speed and accuracy. As per experts, attempting mock tests is the best way to simulate exam conditions and be prepared for the D-day.

Mock CAT tests provide a realistic assessment of a test taker’s conceptual knowledge and exam readiness. Each test has the same format, difficulty level, question types and time duration as the actual CAT exam. Performance in these tests indicates how you are likely to score in the final exam.

It is recommended that CAT aspirants take a mock test every week in the months leading up to the exam. Reviewing mock test performance helps identify areas of improvement. One can analyze question-wise time taken, accuracy, topics/question types where more practice is needed, etc. Keeping track of mock test scores also indicates if your preparation is on the right track.

Some of the key benefits of taking regular practice tests for CAT preparation are: Evaluating exam readiness, Tracking progress, Identifying weaknesses, Building speed and accuracy, Developing time management skills, Reducing test-day anxiety through familiarity, and Boosting confidence.

Application Process

The application process for getting admission into IIMs for the MBA program through CAT has the following key steps:


Candidates must register online at the CAT 2023 website. The registration period usually begins in August and ends in September. Candidates have to provide details like name, date of birth, contact information, academic qualifications, work experience etc.


The registration fee for CAT is Rs 2000 for general category students and Rs 1000 for SC, ST, and PwD candidates. The fee can be paid online via net banking, credit/debit card, UPI or other payment gateways.

Admit Card

Once registration is completed, candidates can download their admit card or hall ticket a few weeks before the exam date. The admit card is an important document containing exam date, time, test center details etc.


CAT is conducted annually by the IIMs. It is a computer-based test with three sections – Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension, Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning, and Quantitative Ability. CAT scores are used by IIMs for shortlisting candidates.


Based on the CAT scores, each IIM shortlists candidates for the next round consisting of Written Ability Test (WAT), Group Discussion (GD) and Personal Interview (PI). The process and weightage varies across IIMs.

Final Selection

After the GD and PI rounds, IIMs release final selection list based on candidates’ performance in CAT, Academics, Work Experience and GD/PI. The final admission offer is given to selected candidates.


In conclusion, when choosing the best self-study course for CAT, it depends on your specific needs and goals. For most students, a comprehensive online course like Byju’s CAT or TIME CAT is a good option. They provide video lessons, study materials, mock tests, and instructor support. This allows you to prepare from anywhere at your own pace. Offline classroom programs like IMS and Career Launcher are best for those who prefer face-to-face teaching and peer collaboration. Compact courses like Arun Sharma are ideal if you need targeted practice on core topics or a quick refresher. Ultimately, create a prep plan that fits your schedule and combines different resources. The key is consistency, time management, and taking regular practice tests. With smart preparation, you can successfully clear CAT and gain admission into your desired IIM.

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